Chicago Cubs: The pursuit of a backup catcher–or lack of

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

The Chicago Cubs never made an active pursuit of adding a backup catcher for Willson Contreras this offseason. It seemed like the right move to make, but out of respect to the All-Star, the Cubs were hesitant to pull the trigger.

We don’t need to harp on the offseason that’s been for the Chicago Cubs. With such little money to spend, the front office made their best efforts with what they had. I believe Theo Epstein made great complimentary moves for guys like Daniel Descalso, Brad Brach, Tony Barnette, and Xavier Cedeno that will benefit this team greatly this season.

With a fleet of talent already in the clubhouse, nothing major needed to happen from the outside. With the being said, one focus that the Cubs were very hesitant about was the move for a backup catcher. The Cubs desperately need a backup catcher for Willson Contreras, but out of respect to the workhouse, they never went all in to make a move.

Contreras led the league in games played (133), games started (123), innings caught (1110) amongst catchers in 2018. This is a formula for fatigue. Although he insists that he never needs a rest, everyone needs a breather. Contreras did make the All-Star team, but we saw his production almost fall of a cliff in the second half as he finished with the lowest batting average (.249) of his career to date.

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When you’re out there as much as Contreras is, the wear and tear from squatting behind the plate and make 100+ throws per game back to the pitcher will ultimately get to a guy. It’s clear to this point having a veteran catcher to help Contreras out is a necessity, but it’s something the Cubs have been wary of, and there are a few reasons for that.

Now there were reports of the Cubs making movements to add catcher Martin Maldonado, an eight-year veteran who’s played with Milwaukee, Anaheim, and Houston. Seemingly a great fit to be the backup catcher, the Cubs checked in a few times this offseason but never went “all-in.” Maldonado ended up signing with the Royals, a smart choice for him as he will be able to take over the reins while Salvador Perez is hurt.

However, I believe the Cubs never made an active pursuit as respect to Contreras. They wanted to say “hey, in light of the trade rumors, we want to prove that your our guy for not only now, but the future.” With his loving and competitive nature, showcasing loyalty is significant for their relationship.

Contreras has a fiery personality. He’s someone you want and need in your clubhouse, and someone an organization needs to take care of if they’re going to keep him around and happy. In November of 2018, a report was released saying that the Cubs had interest in Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto, arguably the best catcher in baseball (behind our guy, of course).

Reports said the Cubs would be willing to move on from Contreras. When he got word of the news, he shrugged it off with a tweet just reading “lol.” Despite the false nature of this news, this is not a good look for a team that needs to take care of their star backstop. I believe this is a contributor to why the Cubs have been reluctant to add a backup.

Cubs have a catching core that could be stellar for years to come. dark. Next

Cubs fans love the competitive nature Contreras brings to the team, and I wouldn’t want to have anyone else behind the plate. Contreras is going to give 110% every day no matter what, which is incredible, but having a solid backup would give him the opportunity to harness some of the energy for the playoff push and postseason itself, which the Chicago Cubs need desperately.